- Associated Press - Saturday, March 8, 2014

DANBURY, Conn. (AP) - His first name was Francisco. He was about 40 years old, had a family in Guatemala and was homeless.

He also “drank a lot,” said Angel Alber, another Guatemalan man who’d been friends with him for the past three years.

But even Alber and other homeless people who knew him weren’t sure of Francisco’s last name. And they say they have no idea why he left the Dorothy Day shelter on Spring Street in the middle of the night last week and wound up dead of exposure under a railroad overpass off Rose Street, where he was found the morning of Feb. 27.

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“He was sleeping in a recliner because all the beds were full,” said one woman who also spent the frigid night of Feb. 26 at the shelter. “When we got up in the morning, he was gone.”

That night, about 75 people were being housed at the four facilities in Danbury that provide overnight accommodations for the homeless.

Temperatures plunged to near-zero, according to Sue Zaborowski, the social services coordinator for the city.

Extra beds had been placed in the city shelter on New Street, and bunks at Dorothy Day and the overflow shelters operated by Jericho Partnership and First Congregational Church were also full because of the weather, she said.

Dave Kreiger, an overnight volunteer at Dorothy Day, confirmed that Francisco had been one of the guests the night before he died, attributing the information to another volunteer who had been working there that night.

Francisco “left about 2 a.m.,” Kreiger said, adding that the homeless man left of his own volition, and had not been thrown out.

Alber said Francisco had been in Danbury for about seven years, worked as a laborer for a “Spanish moving company,” and sent money back to his wife, five children and mother, who still lived in Guatemala.

Alber said through a translator that he had written down his friend’s last name and contact information for his family, but didn’t have it with him Tuesday evening.

Nearly a week after his body was found, Francisco was still listed as “unidentified” at the state medical examiner’s office, and an autopsy that could confirm police suspicions he succumbed to hypothermia had yet to be performed.

Even though investigators do not believe that foul play was involved, they will not release his name until identity has been conclusively determined, Danbury Police Department spokesman Lt. Chris Carroccio said.

“This winter has been unbelievably brutal,” said Michele Conderino, director of homeless services at Catholic Charities of Fairfield County. “It’s been very, very difficult trying to make sure people stay inside. It’s a huge task.”

The death was the second of a homeless person in Fairfield County in less than a week.

Stamford Police Capt. Richard Conklin said the body of a Hispanic man in his 40s was discovered Feb. 25 by a city worker making his rounds at Cummings Park at about 9 a.m. A bottle of alcohol was found near that body, which was lying just outside a bathroom.

Police have not yet been able to identify the man or determine how he died, but they do not believe it was the result of anything criminal, because he still had gold chains around his neck and there was no evidence of a robbery.

On Monday, state officials activated the “severe weather protocol” throughout the state, mandating that shelters not refuse admittance to anyone seeking to get in out of the cold.

Under the protocol, anyone in need of assistance should call the 211 emergency number, and if the nearest shelter is full, transportation will be arranged to another shelter, or if that facility is also at capacity, accommodations must either be provided at a hotel, or an existing client from the shelter will be put up in a hotel and his or her bed given to the person seeking assistance.

Danbury homeless officials could not say Tuesday whether the protocol was in effect last week, and a spokesman for the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, which oversees it, said the person who would have that information also wasn’t available.


Information from: The News-Times, https://www.newstimes.com

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